Phonological analysis of casual Japanese speech in optimality theory (2004)
AuthorsKawai, Junjishow all
The study of casual speech, along with that of children's language acquisition, dialects and aphasia, can provide data of great significance in identifying marked segments and structures of languages. Yet few attempts have been made to model formally variation between formal and casual speech. Japanese, for instance, displays a variety of contraction processes in casual speech but, as far as I am aware, no one has ever formalised the grammar underlying casual speech in this language. This thesis is an attempt to shed light on this underdeveloped area of study. By closely examining a wide range of phonological processes observed in casual Japanese speech, I aim to formalise its grammar within the framework of Optimality Theory (McCarthy & Prince 1993a, Prince & Smolensky 1993), with particular focus on one of its branches, Correspondence Theory (McCarthy & Prince 1995). In this thesis, the grammar of casual speech is formalised by means of constraint reranking. To this end, the hierarchy of constraints for formal Japanese speech is first established through the analysis of consonant alternations and the formation of the te-form of verbs, which more or less corresponds to the English present participle. On close examination of casual speech processes, it is found that the shift from formal speech to casual speech merely involves the demotion of two constraints, namely, MAX-V-IO and MAX-C-IO, and that casual speech contraction can mostly be ascribed to the interaction of ONSET, *LAB and *r. The latter two are, therefore, considered to be marked in Japanese. Also found is that only closed-class items are targeted by most of the processes. This clearly indicates that the distinction between open class and closed class is a cornerstone of the formal-casual contrast in Japanese phonology.